The Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR) and the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) have announced that they will send a U.S. delegation to Singapore in May 2023 for the third round of negotiations of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF). According to the White House, “the Indo-Pacific supports more than three million American jobs and is the source of nearly $900 billion in foreign direct investment in the United States.”
IPEF is an economic initiative launched by the U.S. in May of 2022, along with Australia, Brunei Darussalam, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. Canada is currently seeking membership. IPEF is not a free trade agreement, rather, focuses on four pillars which seek to advance member state economies in a flexible economic strategy that each may incorporate. Negotiating rounds have been held to date in Australia and Indonesia, with a special but more limited round in India.
The IPEF has four pillars. These include pillars on trade, supply chains, “clean economy” and “fair economy” to include anti-corruption and similar issues. In addition, the White House has explained that IPEF’s “efforts include, but are not limited to, cooperation in the digital economy.”
The 2023 Trade Policy Agenda and 2022 Annual Report outlined the Biden-Harris Administration’s work with key trading partners to advance digital trade, promote IPEF, and support the U.S. and allies in the region. The 2023 National Trade Estimate Report on Foreign Trade Barriers (NTE) defines barriers to digital trade as “barriers to cross-border data flows, including data localization requirements, discriminatory practices affecting trade in digital products, restrictions on the supply of Internet-enabled services, and other restrictive technology requirements.” The NTE identifies some IPEF participants as among those imposing barriers to digital trade as well as China, the European Union and others.
Moving into the third round of negotiations this May, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce has said that it expects talks in Singapore to center on trade facilitation, which can “streamline procedures and ease logistical impediments to the free flow of goods and services.” Trade facilitation may include: “accepting electronic documents and using electronic systems for traders to submit required documentation; revolutionizing the customs clearance of lower-value e-commerce shipments whose volumes grew substantially since the pandemic’s onset; [or] digitizing the customs declaration and payment of any duties, fees, and taxes,” among other examples.
As negotiations move forward, Crowell & Moring LLP will continue to monitor IPEF and highlight major developments.
 John Goyer, Indo-Pacific Economic Framework’s Opportunity on Trade Facilitation, U.S. Chamber of Commerce (March 31, 2023), available at https://www.uschamber.com/international/trade-agreements/indo-pacific-economic-frameworks-opportunity-on-trade-facilitation